Nothing proves that you have been in Switzerland more than bring back home a Swiss wine bottle! The reason is simple, only about 2% of Switzerland’s wine leaves the country. The Swiss produce about 200 million liters of wine per year and consume almost all of it within borders, that’s why it’s said that the Swiss like to keep their wine for themselves. Despite the low volume Switzerland produces unique wines, where 20 out of 26 Swiss wine regions grow over 200 grape varieties.
The Swiss winery experience is not limited to picking the right bottle. The Swiss natural beauty amplifies its pleasure. With most vineyards either surrounded by mountains, overlooking lakes or often both, the scenery itself is a thing to enjoy even for non-wine drinkers.
Valais, renown for its posh and flashy ski resorts of Verbier and Zermatt, is also Switzerland’s largest wine producer due to its sunny and dry microclimate and thus one of the top Swiss wine regions. Here the art of wine-growing literally reaches new heights – particularly In Visperterminen, where Europe’s highest vineyards lie, at an elevation of 1100 meters above sea level. The vineyards line the north slopes of the Rhone valley, rising up narrow, steep terraces and overlooked by snow covered peaks. The wine grown here is just as special as the location, The wine-growers of Visperterminen cultivate a Tramin grape, which is pressed into the Heida wine. You should try the white Petite Arvine, the flagship Swiss wine, in its birthplace of Fully or the red Humagne Rouge in Leytron.
If you want to study the grape-vine in-depth, you can visit the wine cellar in Unterstalden below Visperterminen for a wine-tasting session or discover more about the cultivation of the grape and wine-production on a wine-studies hiking trail. A particularly impressive wine experience is offered by the yearly “Wii-Grill-Fäscht” on the first Saturday in September. Make sure to visit Sierre, the capital of Valais wine and its museum, which is split into two parts. The first, located at the Château de Villa in Sierre, provides a history of wine including the production process and an wide collection of wines to taste. Through a Wine Path decorated by picturesque vineyards you can reach the second part, located in the nearby town of Salgesch at the Maison Zumofen, which focuses on local conditions and grape varieties.
For a stretch of about 30 km, and covering about 800 hectares, the Lavaux vineyard terraces envelop lake Geneva between Lausanne and the Chillon Castle in Montreux. UNESCO has taken this region under its protection since 2007, because of its historic and unique construction. During the 11th century, these vast hillsides belonged to Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries. The monks turned the formerly wooded area into productive vineyards that were blessed with breathtaking vistas. The Lavaux terraces in Canton Vaux, is the homeland of Chasselas, Switzerland’s most consumed wine, the rock slides created a mineral rich environment and unique soil make-up that gives the Chasselas a refreshing and crispy flavor.
It’s recommended that you start your wine route at the medieval St. Saphorin with its narrow alleys and characteristic winegrowers’ houses from the 16th to 19th centuries. The town’s original church steeple still keeps many wine labels today. Those who want to experience the scenery with all the senses should also taste it, so make sure to pass by the wine cellars planted on the way and taste the different wines offered. If you had more than couple glasses on the go, the “Lavaux Express” is ready to comfortably transport you through the World Heritage Region, and also the “Lavaux-Panoramic” train, one of the best ways to experience the region visually.
Geneva, home to international organizations and private banks, is also Switzerland’s second largest wine producer. The world does not end at its city boundaries. Although rural Geneva is largely unknown, but it is here that some of the best Swiss wine regions are and best Swiss wines are grown and the charming river scenery stands out. Vineyards cover the rolling hills on both the left and right banks of the Rhone river just a few kilometers outside the center. Discover charming villages on foot, dine in superb restaurants and become acquainted with dishes typical for Geneva. Exceptionally gifted cooks and innovative winegrowers uphold Geneva’s reputation as the culinary capital of Switzerland. Here in different times of the year, the vineyards organise “Les Caves Ouvertes” open day where you can hop freely between the wine caves to taste their productions.
On the other side of the lake, between Cologne and Hérmance a majestic path snakes between the fields and vineyards with amazing view of Lake Léman. Eventually the road leads to the small village of Hérmance with its old streets, its harbor, beach and fantastic terraces.
Also known as Switzerland’s little Italy, Ticino is renowned for its fine Merlots. Climatic conditions provide the ideal balance of sun and rain to make its key town Mendrisiotto, located between the southernmost point of Switzerland and Lake Lugano, an ideal wine region. Here the traditional pergola method is still used for growing the vines and winemakers offer wine lovers the opportunity to participate in the harvest for a day. The wine route takes you through hilly landscapes where vineyards dominate the scenery, and picturesque villages nestle in the hillsides of Mendrisiotto. The small town centers have maintained their artistic heritage and you can enjoy the Swiss wine regions culture through their wines!
East Switzerland: Grisons/Graubünden
In the East of Switzerland, red wines are most popular with all the possible variations of the Pinot Noir, while the Riesling-Sylvaner, known locally as Müller-Thurgau, is the most common white. The hot and dry wind is a key factor responsible for ‘maturing’ the grapes. For the full Heidi experience, head to Grisons or Graubünden, where the vineyards follow the Rhine valley. This is the homeland of the completer grape, whose origins can be traced back to the 8th century. The village of Malans is considered the birth place of this dry white and a good place to also sip some of the region’s star Pinot Noirs. Nearby, the village of Marienfeld lies the Château Salenegg, one of Europe’s oldest vineyards.
Come to visit Switzerland and “taste” its culture in some of the most picturesque Swiss wine regions!